School Safety: How Quickly Should Schools Tell Parents about an Incident?

School Safety: How Quickly Should Schools Tell Parents about an Incident?

At 8:40 this morning I did something completely crazy. I bundled my daughter up in her coat, hat and gloves, walked her two blocks to this big brick building on the corner, opened up the door to the cafeteria, andleft her there! I didn't follow her in to make sure she got to a table safely. I didn't follow her upstairs to her classroom to make sure she put her coat away properly. I didn't sit at her desk and listen to the other kids talk to make absolutely sure no one was ever being mean to her, and I don't have the room bugged to ensure her teacher is never yelling at her.

I didn't do any of these things because Maya is in first grade. She goes to school every Monday through Friday, and she does so without me! Because that is what school is: The place where you leave your kid so someone else can teach them. I, as a parent, have to trust that I picked a good school and that Maya's teacher is at least a halfway decent one.

Or I can homeschool her.

And there is no way that is happening.

About three weeks ago, two kindergarten students walked out of those same lunchroom doors and down the street. No one saw them leave. A kind neighbor found them a couple of blocks away and returned them, completely unharmed, to the school.

I know that she did all these things because I was told them, this week, in a letter that went home. Also, I saw them first hand, when I did my shift in the lunchroom this past Wednesday.

But the incident actually happened on a Thursday, over two weeks ago. By the following Tuesday, the parent community was abuzz with gossip. Emails were flying back and forth. Moms were whispering to each other at pickup time. At least half the school had heard what had happened. But nothing had been sent home yet. No formal letter from the principal, no phone call. That next Monday there was a PTA meeting about the issue and the next day a notice finally came home in my child's backpack. A full two weeks after the fact.

The principal claimed that administrative protocol had prevented her from letting everyone know sooner. And I believed her. Besides, who cares when I got the memo? What matters is that the kids are safe. What matters is that the principal put new policies into place immediately. What matters is that new alarm on the lunchroom door, not how long she waited to tell us about it. To me anyway.

But many parents did not feel the way I did. In fact, they were absolutely furious! How dare the school administration wait two weeks to inform them of what had happened! They should have been told immediately!

Are they right? Should parents expect full disclosure, of all school happenings, as soon as they occur?

School Safety: How Quickly Should Schools Tell Parents about an Incident?
Credit: rod_waddington.

When you send your young child off to school, you are trusting someone else with their care and well being, as well as, of course, their education. If you are an involved parent, you do some research first, ask a bunch of questions, and then pick a school that you feel comfortable with. Where you can let go. Because you have to. You have no choice.

I am sure that all kinds of things happen while my child is in school that I know nothing about. I have no idea what she is doing right now, at 9:15am. She could be reading a book, or getting punched in the arm by that little boy who she thinks is "really funny." Throughout the course of the day she is going to learn things that I will never hear about. She may even fall down, or feel sick, or get sad and I will never know. Such is the nature of sending my kid off to school.

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